By Camille A. Aguinaldo
Congress has now approved the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, with Senate passing on third and final reading its version early Thursday.
The House of Representatives was the first to pass on third and final reading its version of the bill on Wednesday.
The Senate then approved its version of the BBL, Senate Bill No. 1717, the next day, with 21 affirmative votes, zero negative vote, and no abstention.
SB 1717 was sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel F. Zubiri and authored by Senators Leila M. De Lima, Aquilino L. Pimentel III, Risa N. Hontiveros-Baraquel, Paolo Benigno A. Aquino IV, Juan Edgardo M. Angara, Loren B. Legarda, and Francis N. Pangilinan.
Mr. Zubiri said the Senate’s BBL version gave “great latitude to the Bangsamoro people” that would lay the path “to a just and lasting peace not only in Mindanao, but in the whole Philippines.”
“After almost 30 hours of interpellations, and marathon hearings in five ARMM provinces. I am confident that the Senate version is compliant with the Constitution and withstand scrutiny by the Supreme Court,” he said in a statement.
The following amendments were introduced by the Senate, among others, according to Mr. Zubiri:
• Under the fiscal autonomy, the block grant, was spelled out to be 5% of the net collections of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Bureau of Customs (BoC), down from the Bangsamoro Transition Commission’s (BTC) proposed 6%.
• From the P10 billion annually for 10 years, the Special Development Fund shall be at P5 billion yearly for 10 years.
• From the original BTC proposal of 75%-25% sharing in favor of the proposed Bangsamoro government, the sharing was placed at 50%-50%.
• The Senate voted to hold only one plebiscite and deleted the proposed periodic plebiscite to be held repeatedly every five years for 15 years.
Mr. Zubiri also said the bicameral conference committee would be likely held in July. The Senate panel would be composed of Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon, Senators Aquilino L. Pimentel III, Sherwin T. Gatchalian, Francis G. Escudero, Joel J. Villanueva, Zubiri, Angara, Hontiveros, and Legarda.
Congress leaders earlier said the BBL is expected to be signed into law by President Rodrigo R. Duterte in time for his third State of the Nation Address on July.